One Day Road Closure Brook Street (between Church Street and Westfield Road), Monday 7 December 2009

Dundee City Council as Traffic Authority, announced today that the section of Brook Street between Church Street and Westfield Road, Broughty Ferry, Dundee will be closed to vehicular traffic on Monday 7 December 2009 for 1 working day. This is to permit safe access for manhole repair works being carried out. They also confirm that a pedestrian thoroughfare will be maintained during these road works. Alternative routes for diverted vehicles will be available via Westfield Road/King Street/Church Street.


Dundee Misses Out on Scottish Government Cash for New Primary Schools

This morning the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning announced a list of Primary Schools to be built or refurbished with part funding from the Scottish Government through their Scottish Futures Trust. No Dundee Primary Schools were selected for this latest tranche of funding. Labour spokesperson for Education in the City, Laurie Bidwell said:

"I am disappointed that no Dundee primary schools have benefited from the SNP Government announcement on Primary Schools this morning. Unfortunately, this confirms my view that their three phase programme of school building will only part fund one school project in Dundee and that is the refurbishment of Harris Academy. Welcome as that decision was in September, it falls far short of the SNP manifesto commitment of May 2007 to match Labour's school building programme brick for brick. One Secondary school refurbishment falls far short of the Labour led administration's PPP programme which has delivered two new secondary Schools (St Paul's and Grove) and six new Primary Schools (Claypotts Castle, St Andrew's, Craigowl, Downfield, Rowantree and Fintry). Not only does this SNP school building programme fall far short in the number of new schools to be built in Dundee, but also its speed of working will not set the heather alight. Two months on from the fanfare of publicity on 28 September, when the refurbishment of Harris Academy was announced, the Director of Education, is still unable to confirm the amount of government cash to be committed to this project. The longer this takes to be confirmed the less likely it is that any work can begin on Harris Academy before 2012/13."


Alleged Incidents on School Buses at St Paul's Academy

Labour's spokesperson on Education in the City, Laurie Bidwell said:

"It has been reported to me that pupils from St Paul's Academy have been misbehaving on a school bus service. On two nights this week, pupils have apparently been put off their school bus by their driver. Furthermore, it is alleged that these pupils put off the school bus were then sent home in taxis organised by the school, perhaps at the expense of Education funds. Disruptive behaviour by any of our school pupils in the city is unacceptable. I hope the pupils involved are ashamed of their behaviour and the way they have undermined the good name of their school."


Chistmas Story at the Winter Light NIght

The recent controversy about Christmas being cancelled in Dundee was brought about by the SNP administration bringing forward plans in August for the re-branding of the Switching on of the Christmas lights as Winter Light Night. I was one of the few Councillors that night who actually spoke out against this at the City Development Committee meeting, decrying the secularisation of the event. When I heard that commercial interests in the city were in favour, I asked whether the churches had been consulted and the reply was negative. In his press release dated Friday 21 August 2009, Councillor Dawson said, "I am very much looking forward to being one of the 25,000 people we expect to take advantage of a wide and varied programme including street entertainment and retail opportunities." Understandably, this has provoked negative reactions, especially from members of church communities in Dundee. I hope that in the changes that are now being made at the last minute to include a CHRISTmas strand in the proceedings, there is room to properly engage with Advent and the anticipation of Christmas by telling the Christmas story. It would be a pity if there was no room at our Inn to accommodate and celebrate Christmas.
Importantly, the christian season of Advent begins on Sunday 29 November not Friday 27 November.


Heating Replacement at Baldragon Academy

At the Education Committee tonight the Committee approved a tender to spend £41,263 on replacement storage heaters at Baldragon Academy.

Councillor Laurie Bidwell said:
"I sought to defer this decision to give more time for a fuller options appraisal. I did this because I do not think that replacing faulty storage heaters in the school with new storage heaters is the answer. The Council should take decisions that represent best value. As part of considering what is best value, we need to consider the running costs of a heating system over time and its environmental impact as well as the initial cost of installation. In this case, I do not think this tender represents best value in its wider sense. Firstly, I question whether doing half the job, by replacing 40 faulty heaters now is good value for money. It is usually cheaper to do a job like this in its entirety rather than in a series of stages that prolongs the completion of the work and usually costs more in the end. Secondly, I think a decision to stick to storage heaters will saddle the Education Department and School with a heating system which will be more expensive to use and less adjustable and comfortable than a pumped hot water system with radiators complete with individual thermostatic valves. I do not think storage heaters will be such a cheap option when considered over the lifetime of the system. Thirdly, when the Director of Education was questioned about the environmental impact of his proposal or the potential cost savings no costs or figures were available. He could, I think, only speculate that a gas central heating system would cost more than £1 million but had no technical member of staff present to offer any real detail.

By introducing the spectra of pupils and staff potentially left in the cold, the Education Convener, persuaded enough councillors to support her proposal. Had there been any real prospect of a heating crisis as Baldragon Academy, no one, least of all me, would have been critical of a smaller number of heaters not working being replaced immediately while more time was given to preparing and justifying to the Education Committee the best value option.

I am pleased, in the light of the debate that I instigated, that Councillor Borthwick persuaded the Convener to now bring forward a report on long-term heating solutions for the school."

Dead Seal on the Stony Beach

This morning a constituent alerted me to a dead seal washed up near the high water mark on the stony beach running alongside Douglas Terrace. I have contacted the relevant council department who have been asked to remove the carcass from the beach later today.


Civic and Academic Mass St Andrew's Cathedral

This morning, I was privileged to attend the Annual Civic and Academic Mass at St Andrew's Cathedral in Dundee. The Celebrant was Mgr Ken McCaffrey who was deputising for Bishop Logan who has been ill. The Mass setting was uplifting with inspirational singing from the Diocesan Choir. Representatives of staff and students from the Universities of Dundee and Abertay were well represented along with civic leaders from Angus, Dundee and Perth & Kinross Councils, the Chief Constable, the Chief Fire & Rescue Master and Dundee East and West MPs. After the service there was time for networking in the Crypt where refreshments were served. In the photograph from left to right: Mgr Ken McCaffrey; Gwen Boswell, Frank Zwolinski both from the University of Dundee and Councillor Laurie Bidwell.


Response to Councillor Roberts about Balmossie Fire Station

In Dundee Evening Telegraph on Friday, Councillor Christina Roberts claimed that the decision to consult the public again about the downgrading of Balmossie Fire station was informed by the necessity to make savings.
Councillor Laurie Bidwell said:
"Councillor Roberts is being rather selective in what she reveals in her letter. It is true in the introduction to Towards a Safer Tayside 2010/2011 the Fire and Rescue Board Convener, expresses similar sentiments to those contained in Councillor Roberts's letter. But reading on, in the section about downgrading Balmossie, it is clearly stated that 'This proposal will cost no more money and importantly no less money," (page 149 of Board Papers) since the money saved in Dundee will be earmarked for spending in Forfar.

Councillor Roberts also does not comment on why she thought that a similar proposal, which was turned down emphatically in the public consultation and by the Fire and Rescue Board in March, should be worthy of being re-examined now.

Finally, Councillor Roberts fails to mention how her constituents often rely on fire crews from Balmossie when they are moved to Kingsway East fire station to back up the Kingsway crews."

While Balmossie Fire Station does primarily serve Broughty Ferry, Monifieth and their landward areas, it frequently back up crews in other fire stations, particularly but not exclusively Kingsway East in Dundee..


Broughty Ferry Local History Group Launch WW2 Display at The Library

Broughty Ferry Local History Group meet in Broughty Ferry Library on alternate Thursdays to reminisce and to research and record aspects of everyday life in 'the village' down the years.

They are currently engaged in a substantial project to create a community archive relating to life in the 1940s and 1950s. As part of this longer term project, they have recently created a small collection of artifacts which are currently on display in Broughty Library to mark the seventieth anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. This display consists of a montage of items designed to present a 'snapshot' of Broughty as it was in 1939, the last year before the outbreak of the conflict. It consists of shop adverts relating to businesses which once operated in the area, researched items from local newspapers and Dundee City Council minutes relating to events in Broughty at the time, together with personal items and recollections submitted by group members. It is designed as a prelude to a further display which they hope to mount in the New Year relating to the war itself and the years immediately after.

The display will be on view till the end of the month during the normal Broughty Ferry Library opening hours. The group invites people to come and see it and, if they are interested, to join them in their meetings in the Library every second Thursday at 2pm during term time.

Councillor Laurie
Bidwell said:
"This relatively new group have got off to a really positive start with the helpful support of Community Learning & Development staff from the Leisure and Communities Department. I have enjoyed looking at their display in the Library today. I am delighted that they have been able to share their artifacts and reminiscences with pupils from Eastern Primary School. I look forward to the sharing of their longer term project to record life in
Broughty Ferry during the 1930s and 1940s. I hope many residents will take advantage of the opportunity to see the display in the library."


Disappointment at Fire & Rescue Board Decision

At the Tayside Fire & Rescue Board on Monday 16 November, the Board voted to go ahead with a consultation on 'Towards a Safer Tayside 2010/11' which includes as a major change, the downgrading of Balmossie Fire Station serving Broughty Ferry, Monifieth and their landward areas.

I am very disappointed that the Tayside Fire and Rescue Board, meeting on Monday, voted to go ahead with a consultation on the downgrading of Balmossie Fire Station. I wonder why Dundee SNP Councillors on the board did not support the exclusion of Balmossie from the consultation on 'Towards a Safer Tayside 2010/11'? Many politicians, including Dundee East MP Stewart Hosie (SNP) thought like me that it was premature to return to a matter that had been exhaustively consulted on between November 2008 and March 2009 and about which the communities served by the fire station were emphatic in their rejection. Regretably, we are where we are. I want to reassure constituents that I will do my utmost to ensure that there are plenty of public opportunities for them to put forward their views when the official consultation on "Towards a Safer Tayside 2010/11" is launched. I am confident that residents in Broughty Ferry will want to come forward to support the fulltime retention of their local Fire and Rescue Service.


Appeal to Drivers & Pedestrians in the Vicinity of the New Grove Academy

The rebuilding of Grove Academy has recently been completed. On Monday 16 November, the new school, in one integrated building, will open its doors for the first time to staff and pupils. A significant change is that the main entrance to the school has been moved to Claypotts Road adjacent to the junctions with Davidson Street and Ballinard Gardens.

I want to urge all road users in the vicinity of the new Grove Academy to take extra care next week while we all become familiar with the changed layout. Pupils crossing the road by the new school main entrance need to be wary of restricted sight lines because of the bend in Claypotts Road. Buses stopping adjacent to the school gates may also restrict their view. I think, many manoeuvres by drivers in and out of the new Grove school car park, especially right turns, will be potentially hazardous for pedestrians and other road users. These changes will also affect adults attending Grove for evening classes organised by BERA. From Monday night, they will need to use the new entrance to the school on Claypotts Road to access all of their classes.

In addition, road users should also note that on Monday 16 November there will be temporary closure of the end of Claypotts Road south of West Queen Street while the road over the railway bridge is resurfaced.

One Day Road Closure in Ferry is Delayed

Dundee Roads Partnership announced earlier this morning that the structural road patching works in Claypotts Road, Broughty Ferry have been delayed. These were originally organised to take advantage of the Grove Academy in-service days today and yesterday.The section between Queen Street and Brook Street will now be resurfaced on Monday 16 November.This delay is very unfortunate as these road works will now coincide with the opening day of the new Grove Academy phase two. The new school main entrance is now in Claypotts Road.

Review of Class Sizes Provides Figleaf for Education Secretary

On Wednesday, Fiona Hyslop (Cabinet Secretary for Education & Lifelong Learning) announced that a review to address the mix of class size control mechanisms is to be led by David Cameron, President of the Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES).

David Cameron - a former Director of Children's Services at Stirling Council - will take forward an in-depth review of the various class size control mechanisms, which include regulations, circulars, and teachers' terms and conditions, announced Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop today.

Mr Cameron's review will have a remit to bring forward recommendations before next summer on the best approach for coherent and effective class size control mechanisms in Scottish schools.

This follows the announcement in September 2009 of plans for a legal maximum of 25 for all primary one classes from August next year.

Laurie Bidwell, Labour Education Spokesperson in Dundee said:

"While the current measures and controls to determine class sizes are confusing and need to be rationalised, this review is really a fig leaf to cover the embarrassment of the Education Secretary that she is unable to adequately fund reducing Primary 1-3 class sizes to 18 as her party promised in the May 2007 elections to the Scottish Parliament. To fulfill this SNP manifesto commitment would require a substantial increase in the budget for teachers in Dundee and money for extra classrooms at schools that are currently fully subscribed such as Barnhill Primary School in Broughty Ferry."

Existing arrangements for regulation of class sizes are as follows:

* Primary one - maximum of 25 set by circular
* Primary one to three - maximum of 30 set by regulations
* Primary four to seven - maximum of 33 set by teachers' terms and conditions
* Composite classes - maximum of 25 set by teachers' terms and conditions
* Secondary one to two - maximum of 33 set by teachers' terms and conditions
* Secondary one and two maths and English - maximum of 20 set by circular
* Secondary three to six - maximum of 30 set by teachers' terms and conditions
* Practical classes - maximum of 20 set by teachers' terms and conditions.


Balmossie Fire Station Under Threat

Members of the Tayside Fire and Rescue Board reading their papers for the Fire Board meeting in Forfar next Monday morning, may be experiencing a sense of deja vu. On their agenda is the approval of a public consultation process for 'Towards a Safer Tayside 2010/2011'. Included in recommendations for 2010/11 are proposals to downgrade Balmossie Fire Station which are nearly identical with those that were consulted on extensively and voted down by the Fire Board in March of this year. When I raised this issue with the media last week, I had hoped that good sense would have prevailed in setting the agenda for the next Tayside Fire and Rescue Board meeting. My constituents in Broughty Ferry will be very disappointed. They will be forgiven for thinking that the consultation proposed is a sham. Last year a record number of people responded to the proposed Fire and Rescue Strategy and in Broughty Ferry more than 600 people objected to that part of the strategy that was linked to downgrading services based at Balmossie Fire Station. Not only were the overwhelming majority of respondents unconvinced but the proposals did not convince members of the Fire and Rescue Board either. On 30 March 2009, Councillors on the Fire and Rescue Board voted by twelve votes to five to drop that part of the strategy. If the consultation last year was entered into genuinely and respectfully, how can so many voices be ignored? Why is the Fire Master, Stephen Hunter, so obdurate that he cannot take no for an answer from the public and the Fire and Rescue Board?"


Home Energy Asssessors Begin Door Knocking in B/ferry Monday 9 November

On Monday 9 November a team of Home Energy Assessors will start knocking on front doors in Broughty Ferry to help householders stop wasting energy and save money in their home as part of the Home Insulation Scheme funded by the Scottish Government. The Home Insulation Scheme – which is Scottish Government-funded and endorsed by Dundee City Council – will include a free home energy audit and will offer suitable properties in the area loft and cavity wall insulation – or a top-up to existing loft insulation – at a specially negotiated price or free of charge depending on the measure and household circumstances. Delivered by the Energy Saving Trust, the energy and money saving programme will offer householders in Broughty Ferry free home energy audits, advice on making their homes more energy efficient, and direction to other advice and services available from the Energy Saving Trust.

Councillor Laurie Bidwell said: I think this will be a potentially helpful service to many residents in Broughty Ferry. I hope that it will help reduceenergy bills in homes and the 'carbon footprint' from Broughty Ferry. Residents who are out when the Advisers call will not lose out as the Advisers will not only call back but also post through their letter box details of how to make an appointment with Energy Advisers. Finally, residents should remember that Energy Advisers that call at their front doors will carry an official photo identification which they may ask to see.


Appalling Theft from St Mary's Broughty Ferry

Thieves made off with money raised from selling commemorative poppies from St Mary's Episcopal Church in Broughty Ferry on Monday 2nd November. As a member of St Mary's and a local Councillor I am appalled about such a mean theft at a time approaching Remembrance Sunday when we recall the sacrifice of our service people to protect us and our way of life. I hope this does not persuade the congregation to increase security measures that reduce access to the church for those seeking a place of tranquility for prayer and meditation.


Balmossie Fire Station

In recent weeks there have been reports in the local media about the Tayside Fire & Rescue Service apparently wanting to reopen the question of downgrading Balmossie Fire Station.

I have been contacted by constituents, who are very concerned by press reports that the future of Balmossie Fire Station is under question again.

I want to ask the Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, Stephen Hunter,

'will he give residents in the Ferry and me an assurance that the fire and rescue services at the Balmossie Fire Station will be continued in the form agreed at the Fire Board meeting on 30 March 2009?'

I hope that Fire & Rescue Chief will not need any reminding that the decision taken by the Fire & Rescue Board at the end of March followed a lengthy and thorough consultation about the Towards a Safer Tayside strategy. More than 660 residents in The Ferry area responded with the overwhelming majority objecting to the downgrading of their local fire station. Recent additional planning permissions and serious flooding incidents represent increased local risk factors which reinforce the need for the full time round the clock fire and rescue crews at Balmossie. Of course Balmossie is not just a station that responds to emergency calls and conducts fire safety visits in Broughty Ferry and Monifieth and area. It also has an important role backing up Blackness Fire Station in Dundee, when its crews are called out to fires, floods and road traffic accidents. These include incidents in parts of Tayside outside Dundee.

I also want the Chief to explain why he might appear to be ignoring the emphatic twelve vote to five decision of Conservative, SNP, Liberal Democrat and Labour Councillors on the Fire & Rescue Board who combined to modify his March 2009 proposals in the light of overwhelming public opposition?

'Does he think that these politicians would be so fickle as to have changed their minds so soon after their vote in March?'

When the Fire & Rescue Board decision to retain the 24 hour 7 days a week full time fire service at Balmossie was announced, the 'good sense' of decision makers was welcomed by Stewart Hosie MP and Shona Robison MSP.

'Does Fire & Rescue Chief Stephen Hunter think our Dundee East MP and MSP would be minded to withdraw their support so soon after declaring it?'

Road Works & Closures Claypotts Road 12/13 November 2009

Dundee Road Partnership have announced that structural road patching works in Claypotts Road are being organised to take advantage of the Grove Academy in-service days on 12 & 13 November 2009. The works are to take place under road closures between Dundee Road/Brook Street and West Queen Street and also North of West Queen St up to and including the junction with Albert Road. Diversions will be in place.